Today, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to decide on whether to ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used agricultural pesticide linked to damaging the developing brains of children with reduced IQ, loss of working memory and attention deficit disorders.
The ruling comes three months after Earthjustice, representing Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council, asked federal appeals court judges to order the EPA to make a decision on their decade-long petition to ban the toxic chemical.
“EPA scientists have said for more than two years that this pesticide is unsafe, particularly to children. Any delay in banning this toxic chemical is a tragedy for families and farmworkers,” said Patti Goldman, Earthjustice managing attorney. “Based on science and the law, EPA must ban chlorpyrifos now.”
In late 2016, EPA said that all food exposures exceed safe levels, and that chlorpyrifos put children, workers and the environment in harm’s way. Last month, Earthjustice and partner organizations, as well as various states, filed an administrative appeal to the EPA and urged it to follow the law, the overwhelming science, and ban chlorpyrifos. The 1996 Food Quality Protection Act requires EPA to protect children from unsafe exposures to pesticides.
“Waiting until 2022 to take action on this brain-harming chemical is irresponsible,” said Kristin Schafer, Pesticide Action Network executive director. “It is also exactly what Dow Chemical requested, and it serves their bottom line well at the expense of children, farmers and rural families across the country.”
In March, the EPA refused to ban chlorpyrifos days before a court order deadline, even though the agency said in late 2016 that all food exposures to this chemical are toxic and exceed safe levels. The EPA also said then that chlorpyrifos harm children, workers and the environment. However, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the science is “unresolved” and noted that, rather than make a decision, EPA would study the issue until 2022.
“Trump’s EPA is handing out favors to his cronies in the chemical industry, at the expense of children’s health and well-being. This dangerous chemical has no place in our communities or on the food we feed our families,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "EPA’s own science shows there are unsafe residues of the pesticide on common fruits and vegetables, including kid favorites like apples and oranges. We will continue to fight to keep all kids safe from this toxic chemical.”
“It is long past time to permanently ban all uses of chlorpyrifos. The EPA and their scientists have repeatedly said that this pesticide is not safe,” said Erik Nicholson, National Vice President of United Farm Workers. “We are extremely disappointed in the courts and the EPA for not upholding the law and focusing on the well-being of workers and their children who live in areas surrounded by pesticides. Stop caving-in to corporate interests.”
Chlorpyrifos was banned from residential use 17 years ago. However, this organophosphate, which comes from the same chemical family as sarin nerve gas, is widely used on strawberries, corn, wheat, citrus, apples and other staple foods. While families across the country are at risk of dangerous exposure, farmworkers and children living in rural Latino communities face disproportionate risk.